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December 21, 2011

Adolf Hitler, the carpet eater (Teppichfresser)

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:17 am

A big THANK YOU to Herbert Stolpmann, a reader of my blog, who directed me to William Shirer’s book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which is the source of the claim that Adolf Hitler was a Teppichfresser.

Shirer first wrote about this in his 1941 book Berlin Diary.  

This quote is from his diary:

Sept. 22, 1938. This morning, I noticed something very interesting. I was having breakfast in the garden of the Dresen Hotel, where Hitler is stopping, when the great man suddenly appeared, strode past me, and went down to the edge of the Rhine to inspect his river yacht.

[...]

I think [Hitler] is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And now I understand the meaning of an expression the party hacks were using when we sat around drinking in the Dressen last night. They kept talking about the “Teppichfresser”‘, the “carpet-eater”.  At first I didn’t get it, and then someone explained it in a whisper. They said, Hitler has been having some of his nervous crises lately and that in recent days they’ve taken a strange form. Whenever he goes on a rampage about Benes or the Czechs he flings himself to the floor and chews the edges of the carpet hence the Teppichfresser. After seeing him this morning, I can believe it.

Shirer later included this story in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich which was first published in 1961.

Here is the exact quote from page 391 of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:

“Hitler was in a highly nervous state. On the morning of the twenty-second [of September 1938] I was having breakfast on the terrace of the Hotel Dressen, where the talks were to take place, when Hitler strode past on his way down to the riverbank to inspect his yacht. He seemed to have a peculiar tic. Every few steps he cocked his right shoulder nervously, his left leg snapping up as he did so. He had ugly, black patches under his eyes. He seemed to be, as I noted in my diary [Berlin Dairy] that evening, on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

“Teppichfresser!” muttered my German companion, an editor who secretly despised the Nazis. And he explained that Hitler had been in such a maniacal mood over the Czechs the last few days that on more than one occasion he had lost control of himself completely, hurling himself to the floor and chewing the edge of the carpet. Hence the term “carpet eater.” The evening before, while talking with some of the party leaders at the Dreesen, I had heard the expression applied to the Fuehrer — in whispers, of course.”

The quote above is from Chapter 12, The Road to Munich.  The sub heading is Chamberlain at Godesberg: September 22-23.  This section of Shirer’s book begins with this explanation of what is happening:

Though Chamberlain was bringing to Hitler all that he had asked for at their Berchtesgaden meeting, both men were uneasy as they met at the little Rhine town of Godesberg on the afternoon of September 22nd.

So both Hitler and Neville Chamberlian were “uneasy.”  Shirer wrote that it was “an editor who secretly despised the Nazis,” who told him about Hitler’s habits.  I wonder what the editor who despised the Nazis said about Chamberlain.  If we only knew his name, maybe we could ask him.

According to Mr. Stolpmann, who is a native German speaker, the term Teppichfresser has no other meaning. It is not like the English expression “chewing the fat,” which does not mean literally chewing fat.  However, the German language has two different words for eat:  essen and fressen.  The word “fressen” is used to refer to the way an animal eats, and when used in reference to a human, it is a grave insult.

Hitler was from Austria, where the natives are noted for their nice table manners.  To call an Austrian a “fresser” would be the worst possible insult.  I once went on a guided tour of Austria, and the guide felt the need to tell me (a boorish American) to watch my table manners while in Austria.

Shirer also wrote on page 518 in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich about how

“the S.S.-Gestapo would stage a fake attack on the radio station at Gleiwitz, near the Polish border, using condemned concentration camp inmates outfitted in Polish uniforms.”

On page 519, Shirer wrote:

On October 19, 1944, [Alfred] Naujocks deserted to the Americans and at Nuremberg a year later made a number of sworn affidavits, in one of which he preserved for history the account of the “incident” which Hitler used to justify his attack on Poland.

I previously blogged about Alfred Naujocks and the start of World War II here.

I wish that Eva Braun were still alive so that we could ask her why a beautiful young woman like her would stay with a man like Hitler who was a Teppichfresser.  And even worse, a man who faked an attack on a radio station to start a world war.

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